Q. I realize that we all – by definition – struggle with sin. But what if you’re someone who habitually commits X sin without any intention of stopping? I know all a believer has to do is ask in order for the Lord to forgive them, but I can’t help but feel I have no “right” to ask for forgiveness if my heart isn’t set on gradually erasing that sin out of my life; in other words, I’m asking the Lord to forgive me my sins, but not asking Him to help me with the strength to overcome them. Is that in itself another sin to confess?
A. You’re correct in saying that if we don’t intend to stop sinning we don’t deserve to ask the Lord to forgive us. But the Lord doesn’t forgive us because we deserve it. He forgives us because we believe He died for our sins, all of them. Everyone who’s being honest about it understands that to varying degrees, we’re all idolaters, coveters, adulterers, murderers, and so on, at least in thought. And until He perfects us, we’ll always be that way.
It is good to ask for the strength to overcome a particular sin and if we’re sincere about it God will provide it. But as Paul pointed out, we can’t even live up to our own standards, let alone God’s (Romans 7:18-25).
I believe one purpose of seeking forgiveness when we sin is to keep us mindful of the fact that we have nothing to commend us, lest we begin to believe that we somehow deserve the incredible gift we’ve been given.
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14) conveys this idea. The Pharisee was thankful for being good, but the tax collector harbored no such illusions. He admitted to being a sinner and simply asked for mercy. The Lord said he was the one who went home justified before God.
But in all this we should remember that the Lord already knows all the sins of our life and forgave them all at the cross. There’s nothing we can do that isn’t covered by His love. Because of this He is able to see us as we will become, not as we still are (2 Cor. 5:17).
So while you’re beating yourself up for not being good enough, don’t forget that no one is good enough and thank Him for saving you anyway.